Cat diarrhea is a common symptom of many illnesses, and many cats will experience diarrhea at some point during their lifetimes. Diarrhea is not just a messy problem; it can also pose a diagnostic challenge for veterinarians and pet owners because there are so many potential causes.
Fortunately, many cases of diarrhea resolve with supportive care from a veterinarian. Although 'diarrhea in cats home remedy' ideas abound on the internet, it’s best to avoid these types of interventions because many of them are ineffective at best (and harmful at worst).
Read on to learn more about diarrhea in cats and what you can do to help your cat when diarrhea strikes.
Causes of Diarrhea in Cats
Just as there are many ways for people to get diarrhea, there are also many illnesses in cats that can lead to diarrhea. Diarrhea is not an illness in and of itself, but rather a symptom of other underlying medical issues.
To understand a cat with diarrhea, vets need to diagnose the underlying cause of the problem.
Possible causes of diarrhea in cats include
- Dietary indiscretion
- Foreign body
- Intestinal obstruction
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
- Motility disorders
- Food allergy
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
These are just a few common reasons why your cat may be experiencing diarrhea.
As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why diarrhea can occur. Each requires a different approach when it comes to treating your cat. In some cases, we never find out what caused the diarrhea, but the condition resolves with supportive care and medication.
Regardless of the situation, the first step for addressing cat diarrhea is a visit to your veterinarian.
Diagnosing the Cause of Cat Diarrhea
Because diarrhea can have so many different causes with similar symptoms, it's very important to see your veterinarian for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Your veterinarian will start by taking a thorough medical history of your cat, including questions such as when the diarrhea began, whether there have been any recent changes in your cat’s diet or environment, and whether you have noticed any other unusual symptoms.
Your veterinarian will also perform a complete head-to-tail physical examination on your cat. They may also recommend some additional diagnostic testing such as evaluation of your cat's stool, blood work, or diagnostic imaging such as ultrasounds or radiographs (x-rays).
These tests help your veterinarian further determine the cause of the diarrhea. Once the underlying cause of diarrhea has been diagnosed, your vet will be able to prescribe appropriate treatment and help get your cat back on track.
Treating Diarrhea in Cats
In cases where an underlying medical condition has been diagnosed, treating or managing that condition will be the first step to addressing your cat’s diarrhea.
For example, if your cat is diagnosed with food intolerances or inflammatory bowel disease, a special diet will be prescribed to manage your cat’s diarrhea. If your cat is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, medication to manage your cat’s thyroid level will be prescribed.
If parasites are the cause of your cat’s diarrhea, anti-parasitic medications will be prescribed for your cat. In many cases, treating the underlying cause will improve or resolve the diarrhea.
Sometimes, however, we won’t know what caused the diarrhea. In these cases, we often treat empirically using supportive care such as an easily digestible diet (bland food), probiotics, antiemetics, antacids, and subcutaneous (SQ) or intravenous (IV) fluids.
An antibiotic such as Metronidazole may be prescribed to shorten the course of the diarrhea in some cases. Your veterinarian will determine the best course of treatment for your cat based on your cat’s symptoms, age, and concurrent health conditions.
Home Remedies for Diarrhea in Cats
In general, it’s best to avoid home remedies for cat diarrhea because they may inadvertently make your cat’s diarrhea worse. Home remedies do not address the underlying cause of the diarrhea, so they're often ineffective at resolving the problem.
Some home remedies or over-the-counter treatments for diarrhea may even be harmful for your cat. Never give your cat any home remedies or over-the-counter treatments without first consulting your veterinarian. This is also true of human medications intended to treat human diarrhea; never give these human medications to your cat.
In some cases, a home remedy for cat diarrhea such as feeding your cat canned pumpkin will not harm your cat but simply be ineffective. The idea behind this home remedy is that canned pumpkin is high in fiber and will therefore stop the diarrhea.
However, this generally doesn’t shorten the course of the diarrhea and many cats dislike the taste of canned pumpkin. Fortunately, canned pumpkin is not harmful for your cat.
If you do decide to try this cat diarrhea treatment at home, consult your veterinarian first and make sure you are using plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling which contains spices and sugar that will worsen your cat’s diarrhea.
Preventing Diarrhea in Cats
Although many causes of diarrhea in cats cannot be prevented, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk.
First, maintain your cat on a healthy, commercially-prepared cat food that provides complete and balanced nutrition.
Second, if you must change your cat’s diet, do so gradually to avoid upsetting their digestive system. A quick change of diet could cause some diarrhea. You can adjust slowly by mixing in small amounts of new food with the old food, gradually increasing proportions over the course of a week or two.
Third, make sure your cat is kept up-to-date on parasite prevention medications, especially if they go outdoors or hunt.
Finally, be sure to see your veterinarian for regular annual wellness exams, as well as for any problems you may encounter so you can catch potential issues early before they turn into messy problems like diarrhea.
Remember, there are many possible illnesses that can cause diarrhea, so maintaining overall cat health and well-being is a great starting for prevention!